Young and Old: Breaking Out Millennial Debt and Credit

Young and Old: Breaking Out Millennial Debt and Credit article image.

It's no secret members of the millennial generation—ages 24 to 39—are often lumped together and viewed as one. But this can oversimplify things, especially when looking at credit, debt and finances.

As with any generation, average debt and credit score statistics cast a wide net and pull in data from all members of the age group. For millennials, however, this generational view can result in a fuzzy picture, as this age group includes consumers at several milestone points in life—those still in college, recent graduates, and those who may be parents or homeowners.

As part of our ongoing look at debt and credit in the U.S., Experian analyzed credit records from the second quarter (Q2) of 2019 for millennials—those consumers ages 24 to 39. We split the generation into two groups—younger millennials (24 to 31) and older millennials (32 to 39)—and looked at how debt, delinquencies and credit scores compared. Read on for our insights and analysis.

Millennial Debt Varies Drastically by Age

While it's often reported that the millennial generation has one of the highest total debt balances (the generation ranks third highest by total debt), this is not necessarily true for every member of the group. In fact, younger millennials have a total average debt balance that's less than half that of their older peers, according to Experian data.

Younger millennials carry a total average debt balance of $41,330, compared with the $104,064 carried by older members of the generation. If we were to rank these averages, the younger portion of the age group would have the third-lowest average debt balance while the older portion would rank as the second highest of all generations.

Since debt balances grow with age—peaking at 46—the fact that the younger members of a generation have less debt than their older peers isn't exactly surprising.

Most Debt Balances Among Older Millennials Double Those of Younger Group

In line with their total debt, balances for nearly all types of debt carried by older millennials were noticeably greater than those of the younger group. Credit card balances among the older group were 70% greater and personal loan balances were 61% greater.

Debt Product Balance by Millennial Age Group
Age RangeCredit CardsAuto LoansStudent LoansMortgage LoansPersonal Loans
Younger (24-31 years old)$3,441$16,235$27,070$177,971$8,384
Older (32-39 years old)$5,861$19,468$41,046$233,753$13,457

Source: Experian data from Q2 2019

Delinquency Rate Higher Among Younger Millennials

When it comes to making on-time payments, younger millennials tend to struggle more than the older group—but not by much. Younger millennials had an overall delinquency rate of 4.3% compared with the older group's 3.6% delinquency rate, according to Experian data from the third quarter of 2019.

The difference between the two age groups was most noticeable when it came to accounts that were 30 or more days past due (DPD). A total of 11.6% of younger millennial accounts were 30 or more DPD, compared to a rate of 9.8% held by the older group.

Delinquency Rates by Millennial Age Group
Age RangeOverall% of Trades 30 or More DPD% of Trades 60 or More DPD% of Trades 90 or More DPD
Younger (24-31 years old)4.32%11.62%0.60%0.73%
Older (32-39 years old)3.68%9.84%0.59%0.62%

Source: Experian data from Q3 2019

Difference in FICO® Scores Is Comparatively Modest

In stark contrast to the differences they show in debt totals, the youngest (24) and oldest (39) millennials have average FICO® Scores that are closer than most generations. Twenty-four-year-olds had an average FICO® Score of 660, while 39-year-olds had an average of 677—a difference of only 17 points.

By comparison, the youngest and oldest members of Generation X had a score difference of 26 points, and the score difference between the youngest and oldest baby boomers was 48 points. This trend among millennials makes sense, as even older millennials still have relatively young credit histories.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.